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Bill Introduced to Legalize, Tax Marijuana in Rhode Island

Will Rhode Island lead the way to legal recreational pot in New England? Is it an answer for some of the state's financial woes?

File photo.
File photo.
Could Rhode Island be the next state to legalize recreational use of marijuana?

If it did, would Rhode Island see a tax windfall such as in Colorado, which has seen droves of pot-seeking tourists driving in from out of state to pick up legal weed in addition to a strong local market for recreational marijuana use?

These are questions members of the Rhode Island General Assembly will have to ask after a bill that would regulate and tax legal recreational marijuana was introduced on Wednesday.

"Marijuana prohibition has been a long-term failure,” said bill sponsor Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence). “Forcing marijuana into the underground market ensures authorities have no control of the product. Regulating marijuana would allow the product to be sold safely and responsibly by legitimate businesses in appropriate locations.”

A companion bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Edith Ajello (D-Dist. 1, Providence).

According to a release, the measure would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to two marijuana plants (only one may be mature) in an enclosed, locked space; establish a tightly regulated system of licensed marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities, and testing facilities; enact an excise tax of up to $50 per ounce on the wholesale sale of marijuana flowers applied at the point of transfer from the cultivation facility to a retail store (a special 10-percent sales tax will also be applied at the point of retail sale); and require the Department of Business Regulation to establish rules regulating security, labeling, health and safety requirements.

"Regulation allows us to create barriers to teen access, such as ID checks and serious penalties for selling to those under 21. Taxing marijuana sales will generate tens of millions of dollars in much-needed tax revenue for the state, a portion of which will be directed towards programs that treat and prevent alcohol and other substance abuse," Alejo said.

Miller and Alejo were flanked by a consortium of public officials who represent key stakeholders in both potential decriminalization and past enforcement of marijuana laws.

They were joined by Dr. David Lewis, founder of the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University; Michelle McKenzie, Board member of Protect Families First and Director of Preventing Overdose and Naloxone Intervention; former Providence police officer Beth Comery; and former Warren High School and Mt. Hope High School teacher Pat Smith.
Brew February 16, 2014 at 03:23 PM
Yup he's in the tub. CRYING thank you very much. You're always "ohh moon unit this moon unit that let's make everything about moon unit." Meanwhile! Look what you've don't to poor Dweezil! He suffers! All I'm saying is make an effort with the poor boy.
Joe The Plumber February 17, 2014 at 01:19 PM
Our political leadership in Rhode Island is not smart enough to create an environment that attracts companies that create jobs, create wealth, and pay taxes like manufacturing, software development, transportation, aerospace, bio-medical. No not these industries, but they will legalize marijuana as a quick and easy fix. And the near sighted voters in Rhode Island will be satisfied that this is the solution to our economic problems. I guess if they all smoke enough of it they will anesthetize themselves and will feel better not dealing with the reality that what we really need in this state is industry and a well trained and educated workforce. Not a workforce full of potheads. While Ajello and Miller sit around high smoking pot, this state's economy is also going up in smoke.
Boon Mcnolys February 17, 2014 at 06:18 PM
I don't want to start a massive Marijuana debate but here are my questions. If Marijuana is legalized,state regulated and taxed. Does that mean drug testing for Marijuana has no more negative effects on job applications? Or current employment in Rhode Island? Example: If Marijuana is legal in Rhode Island, applying for jobs or Employment that regularly include pre Drug screenings, Marijuana( THC) wont matter? When a drug test wildly appears at work and your employer says a month later "You have THC in your system". You can say "Its legal in Rhode Island." (?) Not trying to Degrade Alcohol users but lots of Rhode Islanders are Alcohol "enthusiast". That includes Police, Fire, National Guard, state employees, judges and lawyers. These DRUGS are abused everyday. Alcohol, Caffeine ( a Rhode Island favorite) Nicotine and many (not all) over the counter medications. They have no effect on pre employment applications or Current randomized drug testing at work. Except maybe a lack of performance. (maybe) So Marijuana will join these drugs and be negated as well?
Leave RI February 17, 2014 at 06:34 PM
I work for the DoD as a contractor. You can be randomly selected (like a CDL license) to test for any drug prohibited on their list regardless of the state you live in. Even if you visit foreign countries such as the Netherlands where marijuana and some other banned drugs have their own "cafe's" and you came back from vacation and tested positive you'd be fired or suspended. That's my only first hand knowledge on the "testing" issue. I don't know what "private" companies such as Hasbro et al are able to to.

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